Male nurse showing a digital tablet to an elderly woman in a care home.

Professionals who visit elderly care homes in England may be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine to protect residents from the virus, according to a five-week consultation launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Engineers, assessors, allied health professionals and specialist nurses are among the professions likely to be affected by a change in policy, which is also looking at whether to make it mandatory for care home providers to only deploy staff who have received the jab.

The DHSC states that, at this stage, it is keeping the policy under review and considering whether in due course it is necessary to extend it to other parts of the adult social care and health sectors.

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Potential difficulties of the policy being adopted, and extended to all professionals, would be employment implications. For instance, if unable to send an engineer into a home, a question arises about whether it would be possible to deploy these workers towards other work, or whether they would need to be made redundant.

Another potential difficulty would concern whether it would be possible to plug the gap with other staff, or whether it would be necessary to recruit someone new.

Sarah Lepak, Head of Policy & Compliance at the British Healthcare Trades Association commented: “This proposal will inevitably provoke a split reaction.

“Whilst everyone should be encouraged to have the vaccine, particularly where they will be dealing with vulnerable people, making it compulsory has ramifications for employers and employees alike.

“Now that the vast majority of care home residents have been vaccinated (and take-up by the general population continues to be high) the need for such a policy is perhaps questionable.

“Currently, visiting professionals have to produce evidence of a negative test or take a test on arrival anyway.  It would make sense for longer term policy on COVID-19 vaccination to align with policies for flu vaccination.”

Staff, providers, stakeholders, residents and their families are being urged to submit their views here with a final decision expected this summer. The deadline for submitting views for this proposal is 11:45pm on 21 May 2021.

The BHTA has requested that any of its members who disagree with the stance and its associated employment implications should get in touch with the association by 17th May at the latest.

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